I already did a huge Lakers vs. Rockets, NBA playoffs second-round series preview, so in lieu of a traditional game preview, here are a few quick things to watch for in this one.
Will Rajon Rondo return, and how many minutes will he get?
Rondo has missed almost the entire bubble for the Lakers after fracturing his thumb during their second practice in Orlando, necessitating surgery. He was cleared to return in the first round against the Trail Blazers, only to suffer back spasms and end up missing the rest of that series as well.
Now, in Game 1 against Houston, he’s back.
Frank said there was no hard minutes restriction for Rondo, but given that it's his first game back, they plan to be careful.— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) September 4, 2020
How many minutes will he suit up for? That’s anyone’s guess, but it seems likely that he’ll get at least some (or all) of the playing time currently going to J.R. Smith, who played 13.2 minutes per game in the first round. It remains to be seen if he can actually help in that time, but the Lakers do need some ballhandling, and given how often they’ll likely try to get Anthony Davis the ball on the move out of pick-and-roll sets because of how frequently and easily the Rockets switch, this might be a series where he could have some utility.
Can the Lakers shake the rust off?
The Lakers will have had almost an entire week off when they tip off Game 1 on Friday night, while the Rockets will have just played a Game 7 two nights before. While that extra rest might appear to be an advantage in some ways, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel says that for Game 1, the current situation is probably more beneficial to the Rockets.
“I actually think that teams that play a Game 7, in the next series going against a team that has been off has the advantage. Because your senses are sharper, you’re playing in that environment where every possession matters,” Vogel said after practice on Thursday. “That’s a better way to prepare for a series than a week of practices.”
A few other notes and updates
- James and Davis are both also listed as “probable” for the game, but they were listed as that for the entire first round and played anyway, so expect the same thing on Friday.
AD, LeBron and Rajon Rondo are all probable to play tomorrow pic.twitter.com/T3s7qcY9L1— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) September 3, 2020
- James actually said that the time off in between the two rounds has helped his body and given him necessary rest, so it’s possible he comes out with a bit more thrust than he did to start Game 1 against the Blazers.
- Who will start alongside James and Davis remains a mystery, as Vogel wouldn’t confirm or deny any changes at practice. However, he and the team do seem to have tipped their hand about a preference to stay big, so barring an upset it looks like that’s what will happen (at least to start the series).
- If you want more to get you ready for this series, don’t forget to check out the three variables I’ll be watching for, what the Rockets are doing to adjust to the Lakers, Christian and Jacob’s podcast on how the Lakers match up with the Rockets, Sabreena’s column asking whether or not Markieff Morris is actually Los Angeles’ best small-ball option, and her podcast with the guys from the Dream Shake to see how Rockets fans view this series.
The Lakers and Rockets will tip off Game 1 at 6:00 p.m. PT on ESPN. You can check out the rest of the series schedule here, and sign up for fuboTV to watch it here.
For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.